p20aMay is “Canary” month – the month in which The WholeNote publishes its annual Choral Directory – so I thought it fitting to first mention what some of the choirs are doing with world music. Echo Women’s Choir (directed by Becca Whitla and Alan Gasser) celebrates spring, freedom and the outdoors with “Throw the Window Open,” May 16 at Church of the Holy Trinity. Among others works, the programme will include songs from South Africa and the Republic of Georgia sung in the original languages, as well as Holly Near’s Hay una mujer, which commemorates women who were “disappeared” during the Chilean junta of the 1970s. Toronto’s Afrocentric choir, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, performs May 26 and 29 at the Glenn Gould Studio. “And Still We Sing...Steel Singin,” features the new steel pan ensemble Legacy Groove Pan. The programme will showcase Trinidadian Calypso rhythms, West Indian folk music, works by David Rudder, and more.

The Toronto Jewish Folk Choir presents its 84th spring concert at Walter Hall, May 30. The concert which celebrates the memory of Emil Gartner, the choir’s longest serving conductor, will feature his daughter, Toronto Symphony cellist Esther Gartner, in Srul Glick’s Yiddish Suite No. 1, composed to poems by Yiddish-Canadian poets. She’ll also premiere a new work by Raymond Luedeke, commissioned for this concert, as well as perform in Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes with a chamber ensemble. The programme also features classical works, as well as songs in Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish.

As much a world-music concert as an early music one, “Lutefest” closes the Toronto Consort’s season with performances on May 7 and 8. I won’t go into detail here as it’s the topic of our cover story, but I couldn’t leave it out entirely. The programme features three instruments that are essentially cousins: the Middle Eastern oud, played by Bassam Bishara; the western lute (whose name is derived from the French “l’oud”), played by the Toronto Consort’s Terry McKenna; and the Chinese pipa, played by Wen Zhao. Do read the cover story for more!

Presented by Small World Music, the Gundecha Brothers present an evening of Indian Dhrupad music. Dhrupad is a slow, meditative, deeply spiritual ancient vocal music tradition, and Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha are, like the Dagar brothers before them, two of India’s leading artists in this style of music, performing both at home and internationally. You can hear them at The Yoga Sanctuary (2 College St.) on May 7.

Toronto’s Lula Lounge is a well known hotbed of musical activity, and this month they present “Lulaworld 2010,” a festival of world music running May 5 to 30. This concert series presents both Canadian and international artists, representing a truly global array of musical identities, with a special focus this year on Latin America. The festival opens with Latin jazz ensemble Bomba with bassist Fito Garcia and vocalist Marlin Ramazzini. There are too many artists to list here, so please visit Lula’s website at www.lulalounge.ca.

p20bHere are some highlights of “Lulaworld 2010.” Afrolatino Dance Company and Roberto Linares Brown present a Cuban Cabaret, “I am Cuba,” with show-girls, a Cuban orchestra and dance lesssons, May 8. Kinobe and Soul Beat Africa perform Ugandan roots music and original compostions, May 13. Colombia Mon Amor with Orquesta Fantasia present Colombian music, featuring a salsa ensemble with dance lessons by Bailaboogaloo, May 15. Son Jarocho with Cafe con Pan and Yohualichan offer an evening of Mexican music in honour of the bicentennial of Mexican independence, May 16. (This is preceded the afternoon before with a film screening of Los Soneros del Tesechoacan, followed by a dance and music workshop.) Mondo Uke features world music for the ukulele, with a bossa nova workshop for uke players followed by a concert of global ukulele music, May 17. Viva Celia presents a tribute to Celia Cruz, “Queen of Salsa,” featuring vocalists Patricia Cano, Alberto Alberto and Luis Mario Ochoa, May 22. And there’s a whole lot more!

Caribbean/Latin Jazz ensemble CaneFire launches its second CD, Pandemonium, May 19 at the Glenn Gould Studio. This Toronto group has been around for the past five years, and has won praise in Trinidad and Tobago after appearing in festivals there. I’ve had a listen to some of the album, and can testify that this is top-notch, polished performing of instrumental and vocal jazz, with the virtuoso steel-pan playing of Mark Mosca as one of the many highlights. Headed by pianist and composer Jeremy Ledbetter, the band features well-known guest musicians David Rudder and Hermeto Pascoal, as well as Alexis Baró (trumpet), Braxton Hicks (saxophones), Yoser Rodriguez (bass), Alberto Suárez (percussion) and Chendy León (drums). This promises to be a lively evening!

p21Opening May 19 and running to the 23rd, Seventh Stage Theatre presents 9 Parts of Desire by Heather Raffo. The play presents a portrait of nine Iraqi women, “a timely meditation on the ancient, the modern and the feminine in a country overshadowed by war.” The production features an all-star cast including someone who neeeds no introduction here, Arabic singer Maryem Hassan Tollar, who wrote the music for the production as well as acting in it.

Here’s some news about world renowed mrdangam player and and professor of south Indian music at York University Trichy Sankaran: “I wanted to let you know that my father is releasing a book, The Art of Konnakkol (Solkattu – Spoken rythms of south India),” writes his daughter Suba, of Autorickshaw fame. “It’s a groundbreaking work and educational manual, including accompanying CD”. Both father and daughter, members of Autorickshaw and other special guests celebrate with a free concert at the Music Gallery, May 27. The book will be available at a reduced price, this time only!

And heading to the traditions of North India, the Toronto Tabla Ensemble performs at Harbourfront’s Enwave Theatre, May 28 and 29. They join forces with two dance companies, Chhandam and Lavish. For more info, visit www.tablaensemble.com.

Coming up in June is another Small World Music presentation, in partnership with Roy Thomson Hall, Persian vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian performs with Shahnaz Ensemble, June 6. One of the most well known artists of Iranian classical music, Shajarian has had a career spanning over 40 years, both at home and internationally. He’ll be accompanied by an ensemble of 15 instrumentalists.

Karen Ages can be reached at worldmusic@thewholenote.com

This month opens with the lively sounds of Klezmer music. April 1, the University of Toronto Klezmer Ensemble presents “Klezmer Trajectories: Old World Jewish Fusion meets New World Surprises!”, as part of the noon-hour free concert series at the Canadian Opera Company’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. These concerts are always well attended, so it’s advisable to arrive early to get a good seat. There will be more Klezmer later in the month – Off Centre Music Salon presents “Klezmer...on the Roof!”, April 11 at the Glenn Gould Studio, featuring mezzo Annamaria Popescu, accordion virtuoso Joseph Macerollo and the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band.

Asha Bhosle 1Roy Thomson Hall presents a concert of Indian vocal music, April 3. Born in 1933, the legendary Asha Bhosle is best known as a singer for numerous Bollywood films, and is said to have recorded over 12,000 songs in her 65-year career. In addition to film music, she sings ghazals (poetic songs), bhajans (Hindu devotional songs) and folk songs, as well as traditional Indian classical music. More vocal music follows on April 6, this time from Senegal. Baaba Maal mixes the tradition of griot songs with rock, reggae and Afro-Cuban music. He’ll be performing with his nine-member band at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall.

Dubbed “Queen of the Toronto Cajun scene,” vocalist and fiddler Soozi Schlanger has been branching out on her own lately. Known primarily as the driving force in the band Swamperella (where, in addition to singing and fiddling, I’ve also witnessed her play a mean washboard!), this Canadian powerhouse of art and music first learned Cajun music at Ashokan, a fiddle camp in upstate New York. Out of that experience Swamperella was born, and the band has performed extensively, their dedication to authenticity garnering comments such as, “Now where all in Looziana y’all from?” Recently, she’s been going solo with “Soozimusic,” developing a repertoire of her own songs. Along with musicians Emilyn Stam and Victor Bateman, she’ll be performing at Slacks (562 Church St.) on April 4, the Tranzac Club on April 25 and the Moonshine Cafe in Oakville on May 2. You can check her out at www.myspace.com/soozischlanger.

Alex Cuba 1Recently back from performing at the Olympic Games, Juno award-winning Cuban musician Alex Cuba has a busy touring schedule this month. In Ontario, he’ll be performing at London’s Aeolian Hall on April 6, the Brock Centre for the Arts in St. Catharines on April 7, Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre on April 9, the Mod Club in Toronto on April 10 and the Neat School Stage in Burnstown (an hour northwest of Ottawa) on the 11th. After several performances in Quebec later in the month, he’ll be heading to Europe in May. His newest CD will be released on June 8.

On April 24, the Music Gallery presents two artists visiting from Berlin: Amelia Cuni and Werner Durand in “Ancient Trends & New Traditions in Indo-European Music.” Cuni is a vocalist trained in the traditions of Indian classical music, while Durand is a multi instrumentalist who also explores digital sound. Together they blend the old and the new, ranging from traditional music to microtonality. The concert is preceded on April 23 by an artist talk featuring Amelia Cuni, who shares experiences of her 30-year journey between European and Indian cultures. Visit www.musicgallery.org for more details.

Also on April 24, Music on the Donway presents “Journey to Andalusia,” a blend of Jewish, jazz, Indian and Arabic music featuring Toronto’s own Jaffa Road, headed by lead vocalist Aviva Chernick. Jaffa Road will also perform at Hugh’s Room on April 25, where they’ll be joined by Iraqi-Israeli oud/violin master Yair Dalal. This is one of Toronto’s most exciting up-and-coming fusion bands – not to be misssed!

Karen Ages can be reached at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.

March opens with two promising Small World Music presentations in as many days. On March 4, a band of Taureg rock musicians from the Sahara Desert region of Mali, Tinariwen, performs at the Phoenix Concert Theatre (410 Sherbourne). The group was formed in 1979, and since the beginning of last decade has gained prominence outside of Africa, appearing in festivals in Europe and the US. Their songs deal with the exile and suffering of their people, the Kel Tamashek of the southern Sahara, and the beauty of their desert homeland.

page 23 Red ChamberOn March 5, the vocal group Huun Huur Tu performs at the Mod Club (722 College). If you’ve never heard this group of Tuvan throat singers, do not miss this concert! I remember standing riveted to the spot when I first heard them on CBC radio around 13 years ago (remember the show “Global Village”?) This group of male singers/instrumentalists chants at the very base of their vocal range, producing celestial-sounding overtones. They’ll be collaborating with electronic musician Carmen Rizzo, presenting music from their new CD “Eternal.” For more information on both of these groups, visit www.smallworldmusic.com.

The next evening, March 6, the Vancouver-based Chinese instrumental ensemble Red Chamber performs a programme titled “Secret of the Chinese, Passion of the World” at the Music Gallery. Constisting of four women on traditional plucked instruments, their repertoire spans music from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to the present, including styles such as Bluegrass and Jazz. Led by internationally renowned musician Mei Han, featured instruments include the zheng (zither), pipa and ruan (lutes). Their website, complete with musical samples, is worth a visit: www.mei-han.com/redchamber.html.

Cuba’s Havana-based dance company “Dance Cuba” is on tour in Canada this month. The 17-member all female troup, choreographed by Lizt Alfonso and accompanied by six musicians, fuses flamenco with classical ballet, Afro-Cuban dance, and jazz. They’ll be at the David S. Howe Theatre (Brock University) in St. Catharines on March 6, the Capitol Arts Centre in Port Hope on March 14, Markham Theatre on March 16, and the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts on the 17th.

If you haven’t yet been to the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall, do pay it a visit! This stunning concert hall right in downtown Toronto has superb acoustics. Not only does it serve the Conservatory’s needs, but it also boasts a concert series in its own right. World music events coming up include Gypsy fiddler Roby Lakatos and ensemble on March 10, and Senegalese vocalist Baaba Maal with band on April 6. Visit http://performance.rcmusic.ca for the Conservatory’s full concert line-up.

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, a number of Celtic-themed events are scheduled for March 20. The Southern Ontario Dulcimer Association presents a festival of traditional Irish culture and folk music from 1:00 to 10:00 pm in Alton Village, Caledon (the music part is in the evening). Featured performers include Steafan and Saskia Hannigan (check them out on YouTube), Les Starkey, Jason Pfeiffer and others. For more info, go to www.town.caledon.on.ca.

The same evening, Echo Women’s Choir presents a Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee), at Church of the Holy Trinity, a “Down-East Kitchen Party,” complete with fiddles, singing, Irish and Scottish dancers, and a “proper jam session to close out the evening!” Guest performers include members of Bold Steps Dance Studio, Bob Davis (piano), Judith Nancekivell (voice/guitar), and Sarah Shepherd (dance demonstration). Still on March 20, the Hamilton Philharmonic presents Celtic Traditions, a ceilidh with champion fiddler Pierre Schryer and his band, performing in styles from Irish to Scottish to Québécois.

March 27, Toronto based Indian-jazz fusion band Autorickshaw performs with the Jubilate Singers at Eastminster United Church. Says Autorickshaw’s lead vocalist, Suba Sankaran, “This is a very special collaboration, featuring the premiere of my Indo-choral composition Kannamma, commissioned by the Jubilate Singers.” The commission is in celebration of Jubilate’s 40th anniversary season.

The universities hold their end-of-term World Music ensembles concerts this month. York’s take place on March 11, 12 and 15; and U of T’s are March 13 and 18. Please see the daily listings for more info on these and other concerts.

Karen Ages can be reached at worldmusic@thewholenote.com

 

February promises to be an eclectic month on the world music scene: collaborations between classical and world-music performers, concerts celebrating Black History Month, Yiddish cabaret, Balkan pop and a winter folk-festival are some of what will light up what is often a dreary time of year.

P21aCo-presented by Small World Music, Masters of Persian Music returns to Roy Thomson Hall on February 5, after an absence of four years. The ensemble is comprised of some of Iran’s top Persian classical musicians, including tar (plucked lute) master Hossein Alizadeh, who is also known for his soundtracks to Iranian films such as A Time for Drunken Horses, and Gabbeh, both of which I fondly recall seeing years ago at the now-defunct Carlton Cinema. He’ll be joined by Kayhan Kalhor on kamanchech (fiddle), who has perfomed and composed for Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, and five other musicians.
In honour of Black History Month, Harbourfront Centre hosts its 14th annual Kuumba Festival, February 6-7 and 13-14. (“Kuumba,” by the way, is the Swahili word for creativity). The festival includes dance workshops, film, music, comedy, family activities and more. Musical offerings include rock/funk/soul vocalist Saidah Baba Talibah in concert on February 6, traditional African drumming workshops February 6 and 7, “Salsa 101 for Dummies,” a live music and dance class February 6 and 7,  and “Urban X-Posure,” a hip-hop and spoken-word event on February 13. For full schedule of events visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com. Also in celebration of Black History Month, Music Africa presents a series of concerts at the Gladstone Hotel, February 5, 12, 19, and 26 – with a final concert, a tribute to Tarig Abubakar and the AfroNubians, at Evangadi Nightclub on February 28. See the daily listings for details.

February 6, singers Miriam Eskin and Stella Walker present a cabaret performance in English, French, Russian and Yiddish, accompanied by pianist Nina Shapilsky, at the Winchevsky Centre (585 Cranbrooke Ave.). The event is a benefit for the Toronto Jewish Folk Choir, and apparently last year’s was packed, so it is advised to get tickets in advance (416-789-5502).

P21bThe 8th Annual Winterfolk Festival runs February 12-15, at six venues downtown. This event, founded by Brian Gladstone as a means of building community, getting people out, and supporting local businesses during the bleakest time of year, features 100 local folk, roots and blues musicians. This year’s festival includes family programming on the last day, which is in fact the “Family Day” holiday. Visit www.winterfolk.com for details.

The Mississauga Symphony has an interesting programme coming up on February 13. Titled “Temples, Tigers and Mountains,” it will include a new work by internationally renowned sitar master Irshad Khan. His
Gypsy in Red features the sitar and tabla as soloists with the orchestra. And up-and-coming Toronto composer Kevin Lau (currently a doctoral student at U of T) also has a newly commissioned world premiere: Voyage to the East is an orchestral work based on sounds and themes from Asian cultures. The programme also features John Williams’ “Sayuri’s Theme” from Memoirs of a Geisha, and Tan Dun’s YouTube Symphony, Eroica.
Toronto’s high-energy all-female Onnanoko Taiko Ensemble will be performing as guest artists with the chamber group Via Salzburg, at the Glenn Gould Studio on February 18. They’ll be premiering two new pieces for taiko/percussion and string orchestra, by composers Alice Ho and the aforementioned Kevin Lau.

On February 21 at Walter Hall, the chamber series Mooredale Concerts presents an afternoon of Spanish music, with classical guitarist Jason Vieaux and 23-year-old mezzo Wallis Giunta – who premiered roles in Dean Burry’s opera
Pandora’s Locker, and Murray Schafer’s Children’s Crusade last season. Together, they’ll perform two Spanish song cycles: Canciones Españolas Antiguas (Ancient Spanish Songs) arranged by poet Federico Garcia Lorca, and Siete Canciones Populares Españolas by Manuel de Falla, among other works.


P21cFinally, “Briga” – formerly with Montreal’s Algerian hip-hop band Syncop, as well as Les Gitans de Sarajevo and Rembetica Hipsters – launches her debut Balkan pop album Diaspora, February 23 at Hugh’s Room. This multi-talented violinist and singer (born Brigitte Dajczer, daughter of a Warsaw Symphony musician) plays virtuoso gypsy violin, and sings French chansons and art songs in her new venture as solo artist, with a number of back-up musicians. She’s also an award-winning independent film maker. Judging by the musical samples I’ve heard, this promises to be a lively evening!


Karen Ages can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.


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